I was here to climb, and climb I did. I had even warmed up my trad skills with a day at the Leap and another at the 90ft Wall in Tahoe.
By the time I was able to commit to another week of climbing with Yen in Yosemite (after doggie health issues forced us to cancel our prior arrangement), she had already invited our mutual friend: Bud. Three more friends from the same group of rock debutants had separately planned to come up and were already in the valley when we arrived.
I had met both Yen and Bud through online mediums: Mountain Project and Meetup. It turned out, there was an obvious energy of challenge between them, who climb at rather similar levels but with markedly different styles. Nonetheless, on this trip, Yen had invited both of us, and it just so happened that he and I we were longing to try a day of climbing together, switching leads up a long multi-pitch.
So, after a day of cragging to warm up, Bud set his sight on Kor Beck, a 600 ft ascent up the face of the Middle Cathedral rock in 6 pitches. I led the higher grades and he led the scary runouts. We let a faster group pass us and shared ropes to rappel back down with them. It was a pleasant and successful day for us.
Bud was the first to get worried when Yen and Chris didn’t show up two hours past dark that night, and so eventually I agreed to call 911 and somehow got transferred to the Yosemite rangers dispatch. They reassured me that no one ever got hurt taking on over-ambitious climbs in the valley and that their policy was somewhere along the lines of punishment by reality check.
After somehow summitting Brail Book in the dark and hiking back down to the base to get their bags and then another couple of hours to the van, Yen and Chris showed up at 2 AM. The next day she and I rested while the others scrambled up Royal Arches: 16 pitches of easy terrain. Yen made a new friend at Camp 4 and decided to sleep and hike with her instead, leaving the day after open to climb again with Bud.
Drama unraveled that night when a love triangle released it’s energy.
Tom had invited the young and precious Jessica to climb in Yosemite. She managed to bring along her heart’s interest: Julian. The departure plan was for Tom to drive back with Jess, as Julian wanted to stay with the rest of us. So on the last day, Tom waited on her for many long moments at the top of Royal Arches as Julian led Jess behind them with pain in his hand. Later, once they were already en route for San Diego, Jessica’s heart felt a calling towards the one she had begun to cherish increasingly. She knew that her imminent flight to Santiago meant she would have no more opportunity to see him. She beseeched that Tom return her to Julian and so he complied, though this meant he would arrive in San Diego at the latest hour. I can only imagine his work day that followed.
Yen also was upset. She had wanted to climb with me. Instead she had been pawned off into a long day of hiking, climbing and more hiking with a young man who was well intended albeit somewhat clueless, and then felt forced to make hiking friends in camp 4 to keep busy. She felt excluded. She threatened to hitch a ride back to San Francisco, 10 days ahead of schedule.
I heard Yen out and promised we would all function as a group from now on. I agreed that we finally go to the campsite she had reserved, a 45 minute drive uphill out of the valley. From there, reunited as a crew, we decided to escape the heat and head up to Tuolomne.
For our first group climb in Tuolomne, Bud and I switched leads up an easy route on the Stately Pleasure dome. With Yen tied in to the middle of the rope and amazing views of the Tenaya lake accross the road, it was a great and memorable success. After resting at the beach and taking a quick swim, I felt energized to get back on the wall. This time Yen was tired but Julian and Jess were yearning to follow. Once again Bud and I switched leads, this time up a more ambitious route: South Crack.. I linked the first said crux pitches, stretching my 80m rope up a gorgeous finger crack. Bud claimed glad to follow this terrain and was surprisingly confident on the next pitch which wandered up runout slab and crossed a small water stream. With Julian and Jess simul-following behind us, we moved fast up the dome and were back down in time for sunset. What a day!
We all agreed on resting the next, and after waking up to the financial punishment and lectures of a stern ranger for sleeping in a turnout without a wilderness permit, we also agreed on finding a real campsite.
After a full day of rest and some legal sleep, we followed Yen’s decision to go to Lembert dome as it would provide opportunities for everyone: from single pitch trad practice to runout multi-pitch 5.10a.
Since we had a camp and everyone could dump their belongings into tents, I was happy to leave my van behind and cram into Bud’s little 4×4 with the gang. I read through the topo on our way there and only one route seemed appealing to me: Crying Time Again – 6 pitches – 5.10a.
Everything about that climb was surprising, starting with the group decision to take 5 people up a 6 pitch route. The start was hard to find because we couldn’t spot the first bolts. The trend continued nearly till the top as almost all the bolts were hidden until climbed to. Surprising also was the fact that this route was classified as “traditional” even though we only placed 3 pieces on the entire route. Instead it was a route bolted by ‘tradsters’ who know nothing of sport climbing conventions. As a result I ended up climbing far past protection, luckily on easy face terrain, something I am far more familiar with than this group of tradsters I was leading. Going offroute on the third pitch somehow allowed us to send the climb with only 4 anchors.
Summitting after the perfectly vertical final crux pitch onto the top of Lembert dome was exhilirating. Everyone shared the same sensation of success and together we created a human pyramid to celebrate the accomplishment of our team effort.
After that climb, it was clear to everyone that our trip was over. Yen played real life tetris fitting all the bags into Bud’s Amigo and all four of them were on route to San Deigo, leaving me here alone in Tamarack Flat.